A while ago, we asked our readers for their best indoor seed starting tips. We were amazed at the ingenuity they shared! Read their tips below, and add your own to the comment section below.

Of course, if you want to take the easy way out, you can always purchase a seed starting kit. (But promise us you’ll recycle it year after year.)


  1. Linda

    Here’s my tip: Keep grow lights close to seed trays to reduce etiolation of seedlings. Soon after germination point a small fan at the seed tray and turn it on low speed. The breeze promotes production of ethylene and strengthens the stems–no gangly seedlings flopping over the seed trays!

  2. loosescrew212000

    To protect your seeds from cats and birds disrupting the soil you can lay some fine craft mesh over your pot or garden until the seeds are sprouted. The mesh can remain in place either staked down or made into a tent with poles indefinitely

  3. ofia

    Very interesting tips that people are providing!! I use toilet paper rolls to make crafts for kids, so I won’t be adopting that one, but I think it is a great idea. Recently a friend gifted me with a hydroponic seed starter set and although it pops up the seeds 8 in a tidy row, it is more to educate the kidlets with. When it is seed starting time in my garden I soak them overnight and take them out to the garden. I plant them in a circle and put up little center sticks made out of cut up blinds with permanent ink information on them, date I planted, height of plant expected so I know what they are when they show their stuff. Living in the lower mainland of BC we generally have to start our seeds inside but the snow this year might have be taking up some of the great suggestions I have read here. Thank you for this informative site.

  4. eb

    I have a great planter tip for large planters one would set on the patio. It hasn’t failed me yet for keeping sow or potato bugs and earwigs out of my planters. Line the bottom of the planter and about 1/3 of the way up with fine wire mesh (screen) or landscaping cloth. Then put a layer of pebbles for drainage and then your soil on top.

  5. Alabama Gardener

    I use damp paper towels sprinkled with vermeculite and seeds to germinate my seeds. I keep them in a warm place in a gallon Ziploc bag. Checking them every 4-5 days to make sure they are moist and to check germination. This way there is no wasted time planting seeds that won’t germinate. When ready, I place them in starting pots. Enjoy…

  6. Rosie

    Ever wonder what to do with the endless refuse from your coffee machine? I start seeds in those little individual coffee/tea containers that my coffee maker (a Keurigs) use. Just peel the foil top off and stick the seeds into the coffee grounds or tea leaves. It is just the right size and the hole in the bottom works well for draining. When you are ready to plant I use the extras (we drink a lot of coffee and tea) for compost (taking them out of the plastic and recycling that part). I don’t have pictures, but you can imagine

  7. I start seeds in biodegradable recycled cups that I make out of paper towel and toilet paper rolls. They are free, easy to make, and work great for sprouting seeds under a grow light. I started my seeds this way last year with good results, and I plan to do even more this year. Here is a link to my step by step instructions

  8. Mary Poppins

    This will seem terribly old fashioned, but it always worked for my grandmother and she had an amazing year-round vegetable garden. I mix my seeds with a little soil, sprinkle them on a wet paper towel that sits on a sturdy paper plate, slide it into a large zip bag, and set the plate on top of a hot water bottle filled with very hot water. I refill the bottle twice a day. I can see which seeds are germinating and plant those. My grandmother always thought the gentle heat of the water bottle was better than a heating pad. She also said that the seeds needed “time from the heat” as the bottle cools, just as soil naturally cools each day when the sun sets

  9. ronniw

    1. Start early. Smaller seeds like tomatoes, peppers and tobacco take time to germinate.
    2. Use peat pots and a porous soil mix for proper breathing.
    3. You can use the cardboard egg cartons if you have saved enough of them
    4. Create a little greenhouse by covering with plastic in a sunny window
    5. Be careful not to over water–as so many of us are “overcaring”

  10. SunnySideUp

    5 tips in all–I couldn’t select just one!
    1. Use cups to start seeds in that you can plant right in the garden
    2. Use grow lights. You don’t have to rotate everyday like you do when using a window
    3.When seedlings are just emerging, water using a plastic bottle that you have poked holes in the caps. It sprinkles the seedlings instead of a gush of water that can disturb the soil
    4. Don’t start too early. I’m learning the hard way and have cukes and pumpkins that are flowering much too early
    5. Plant what you like to eat

  11. ys

    Seed starting tips: I recycle the plastic containers strawberries are sold in as mini window seal greenhouses to start my seeds. First I line the container with gentle used paper towels, feel with seed starting mix, plant seeds, water and find a warm place until the begin to comp up. Once up, I move to a sunny window seal and enjoy the first of my gardening season. To water my seedlings, I use a rinsed out dish soap bottle. This is a nice size, is easy to get the water when you want it and handy to store. You can also stack your strawberry greenhouses on the window seal until your plants start to outgrow the containers. This is an easy, environmentally friendly way to get your garden started!


by Josh and Brent

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Donald D Miller

half egg shell, and egg carton, great tip. I’ve used several different liners, to keep soil with roots, but this sounds like the best, can’t wait to try it on my jalapeno seeds.

Lisa leavelle

I start my seeds in between a wet paper towel placed inside a ziplock bag. This weeds out the bad or dried up seeds.

linda turner

Those cats! They love that freshly dug earth or newly mulched garden…..there are actually little mats you can get from garden supply companies to put around the plants. They're plastic with little points (kind of like artificial grass, but stiff) Supposedly it will keep them from walking into the bed. Repellents are available but they are NOT for edible gardens. I've tried cinnamon on house plants – works pretty well. Good Luck!


I planted quite a few things two weeks ago. I used gallon milk jugs cut in 1/2 for the tomatoes and so far so good I think. I used little Dixie cups for some seeds and then also used 6 large growing trays. I was starting to get a little concerned not seeing anything come in after two weeks but today we have peas!! We also planted 2 apple trees, a peach tree, and a fig tree

then I am growing grapes,raspberries, 2 types of blueberries and a blackberry in containers until the bushes are well established. My poor poor strawberries have been destroyed by feral cats that will not stop using my front bed as a litter box =( I dont know what to do about that.

Linda Turner

I use 'saved seeds' every year…sometimes, a few years old! If you have a good amount of a variety, and want to be sure you end up with a specific number of plants, you can easily test for viability of the seeds. On a piece of damp paper towel on a tray place 10 seeds; cover with plastic wrap or a dish; put in a warm place for a day or so. The amount of seeds that sprout will give you the germination rate (for example, if 7 out of ten sprout, you have a 70% average rate of germ.) If the percentage is low, you can just plant 2-3 seeds per cell.

You can go to my website plantasiact.com for a seed planting schedule-just go to the Plant Info page.

Joe DiDuca

Today, I am setting out to start my tomato and pepper plants indoors. I won't need to plant all the seeds in the packets and wanted to know if seeds can be stored for later use? I can't seem to convince anyone to take them on and start their own garden and my Yankee thrift is offended at the idea of just tossing the surplus seeds in the bin.

Lisa Bailey

This is my first try starting from seed!

I purchased the Heirloom seeds and now am looking for a grow light to get them started any suggestions?

Dr. Brent

Hi, Lisa

The Garden Center at your local big box store will have a grow light. You can also get the seed trays with the clear plastic domes to make a convenient mini greenhouse to get your seeds started


When will it be time to start the seeds from your Heirloom Garden pack for people in zone 5?

Dr. Brent

Hi, Kirschele

Sign up for the Heirloom Garden checklist. You’ll receive a bulletin every two weeks that describes exactly what you should be doing and when in your growing zone

Linnea Franits

Has anybody tried wintersowing? From what I understand, you plant seeds in a soil filled container (such as a recycled gallon milk jug – cut in half with drainage holes poked in the bottom) and place them outside even in the frozen, snowy garden. Supposedly, when the seeds are ready to do their thing, they will and there is less of a problem as they don't need to be hardened off as indoor starts do. Anybody?

Jean Paras

Planted all of my seedes from the Heirloom Garden ,except the sugar pumpkins on Feb.24

and my turnip and radish and spinach are comming up already. I'll wait a week to start planting my flowers . I'am in zone 6A.

Zone 4 Deputy Garden

Hi Jan,

Putting your herbs in the ground will work well for you.Great yield. My oregano even comes back every year.

Have fun!



Learned alot from all the comments. I plant my lettuce and radishes every year on Valentines Day. It works perfectly for my area and my small little garden. I am going to work on herbs this year. I usually plant them in pots but this year I am going to try putting them in beds and see if I have a better yeild. Great Gardening everyone!

teri tighe

I'll definitely have to adopt that tip for the pets. My cats would have a field day.

Thanks for all the lovely tips.

farm fatale

how far ahead do you start the seedlings in yr heirloom collection?

In St. Louis it starts getting 'Spring-like' in Mid-March…. but it's a 'gotcha' game! Not til May is it really safe to put out seedlings.

Maureen Newman

I have shelves with shop lights to start my indoor seeds, an activity that keeps me sane during the long COLD winters. I use trays with the domed plastic lids to keep humidity in. There are screened doors in the front to keep the cats out. The fluorescent lights generate enough heat to help germination on the shelf above each light. I roll down a cover of plastic drop cloth over the front screen doors at night to hold the heat in, roll it up during the day when the house is warmer. I lay out all my seed packs and organize them into a shoebox with dividers labeled with the dates they should be started. I have learned from experience that it doesn’t pay to start them too early…


My grandmother saved her egg shells, when she was ready to start her seeds inside, she would carefully put her soil mix into each half shell,place her seed in her soil then place her shell into the empty egg carton, put them in a warm sunny spot near a window and cover them with a glass top. When it came time to plant them in the garden she would remove them from the carton, crack the egg shell just enough so it would no disturb the roots to much and plant them. I tried this for the first time last year, I had actually forgot this tip. I only had enough egg shells to do about two dozen pepper plants, it worked great. My peppers were delicious.

My 2nd tip comes from my husbands mom from years ago and I have done this every time I put any plants in my garden. She told me to boil water, dig my holes for my plants, go along and pour the hot water into each hole, then go back and put my plants in, they do not go into shock. I think warming the ground before you put your plant in your soil lets your plant know you care enough to make it all warm and snuggly, in its new home.